This was written to be one of those futuristic, psychological mysteries that
you have to read through to find out what on earth is going on.
Some of the best stories result from taking a pretty ordinary person, putting
them in a very unusual situation, and just playing things from there. I couldn't
think of a more unusual situation for someone to be in than waking up to find
themselves dead. Well, not dead, literally, of course. But suppose everybody
else thought they were dead.
Richard Jarrow, a mild-mannered schoolteacher from Minneapolis, wakes up in
a hotel room in Atlanta with no idea how he got there and no reason for being
there. Although the clothes in the closet fit, he doesn't recognize them. The
picture ID that he finds in the wallet looks like him, but the name given with
it is Maurice Gordon, which means nothing. Jarrow doesn't drink, is and awkward
with women, and abhors violence; yet there are glasses and a partly emptied
bottle in the room, other evidence of sharing it with a female occupant, and
there are guns in a briefcase that he presumes is his. Totally bewildered, he
flees back to Minneapolis.
But there things only get worse. Although he looks familiar enough to himself
in a mirror, none of his colleagues recognize him when he shows up at the school
where he works. Everyone insists that Richard Jarrow died six months previously.
He confirms it with the coroner's office, gets a copy of his death certificate.
Holed up in a hotel since his former apartment has been reoccupied, he goes
through the wallet and other things from his pockets that he brought from Atlanta,
and finds several phone numbers. One of them, in Chicago, is answered by a lady
called Rita, whom he doesn't know. . . . But she evidently recognizes him. In
fact, she's been expecting him to call. So, maybe after all he isn't crazy as
everyone has been telling him--and as he, indeed, has been beginning to fear.
"So who am I?" he asks. Jarrow, the schoolteacher, or Gordon, the
mystery man who shares hotel rooms with women and caries guns. Rita tells him,
"You're Tony Demiro." Who turns out to be Rita's fiance. Or rather,
former fiance. Demiro, an Army captain, was killed in a helicopter accident.
So now Jarrow is three people. Neither he nor Rita have heard of one of them,
and the other two are dead.
After that, things start to get complicated, and we discover two more identities,
one a mysterious, composite "super agent" obsessed with pursuing a
fugitive scientist whom he can never quite catch in a chase across Europe and
into the new, vibrant states that have emerged from the former Soviet empire
before the whole thing finally resolves itself. Fun to write, and enthusiastically
received by readers.